Cutting Down the Humanities … it’s Only Humane! By James Reed

So, the Australian Catholic University (ACU) is chopping down the Humanities, axing jobs by the forest load, and all I can say, is good on them! The jobs may at first blush might seem to be in the conversation of mankind, but reading all the material I see that woke weaves through things, including even medievalism. Thus, better to close them down. Real work on the preservation of Western civilisation will be done outside the university system. People interested in say philosophy can have a day job and do their work at night, perhaps by candle light to get into the spirit of things.

“The Australian Catholic University (ACU) has been condemned by local and international academics for its decision to axe dozens of humanities jobs in highly coveted departments, entirely disbanding institutes in philosophy and history.

On Monday, senior management at the ACU released a draft plan confirming 32 full-time equivalent jobs would be cut at the university as part of its latest restructuring.

It follows more than 80 full-time and academic professional job cuts earlier this year.

Academics have reacted with dismay to the news, which spills 52 positions to fill just 19. The areas of philosophy, history, theology, gender studies, social sciences and religion are hit the hardest, with the medieval and early modern studies program entirely disbanded.

The director of the program, Megan Cassidy-Welch, described it as a “myopic decision”. An open letter to save the program had received more than 500 signatures in two days.

“Medieval and early modern studies lies at the heart of university history, theology, philosophy, literary studies and so much more, especially in a Catholic university,” she wrote.

“Ending investment in a program of research of critical importance not only of the university’s own mission, but its capacity to engage with its own heritage is bemusing.

“We’re located in the heart of the university’s Catholic identity.”

Cassidy-Welch said it came just a few years after ACU unveiled a “bold and ambitious” vision for humanities research that attracted several academics from overseas. The cuts came “out of the blue” for her and her colleagues.

“It was news to me my entire team was being cut,” she said. “We’ve mobilised international support from renowned scholars and colleagues and we’re hoping for a successful outcome … this is a huge reputational risk.

“It’s going to damage the university’s capacity to undertake significant and world-leading research … but they probably think we’re low-hanging fruit.”


The deputy vice-chancellor of research and enterprise, Prof Abid Khan, said the ACU was “not wavering” from its longstanding commitment to the humanities, adding the proposed reductions represented a “small fraction” of research active staff.

Khan said the draft plan proposed a “greater integration” of research and teaching to provide a “more balanced and sustainable academic model”.

“We … need to manage a sustainable level of staff to students and balance that with our capacity to support internally funded research programs and relatively large numbers of internally funded research-only staff,” Khan said.

“Unavoidably that does mean the loss of some roles to achieve this balance and bring us closer to sector-norms; the proposed reductions present a small fraction of ACU’s research active staff and are also a subset of our internally funded, research-only posts.”

The director of ACU’s Dianoia Institute of Philosophy, Prof Stephen Finlay, said most of his colleagues had been headhunted from overseas and now had to once again uproot their lives.

“They brought families over with the promise these appointments would be continuing,” he said.

“They had lifetime tenure, job security in leading universities elsewhere around the world … the loss of our jobs just a few years later means having to start all over again.

“The human dimension is devastating.”

Just four of Finlay’s 15 staff will be able to apply for new positions in the institute for religion and critical inquiry.

Finlay said the decision was “totally indefensible”. “Right now everybody is in fighting mode,” he said. “We are truly excellent, top 10 in the world in some areas of specialisation and number two in the world for publications … people around the world are reacting with shock and outrage.”

The ACU National Tertiary Education Union branch president, Dr Leah Kaufmann, said the job cuts were a “disaster”.

“There is no way excess spending can be solved by job cuts that risk ACU’s ability to deliver core work, particularly teaching, supporting students and conducting research,” she said.

“Budget management and leadership accountability is needed, not job cuts.”

The draft plan, which is the second of three intended to address ACU’s financial shortfall, is open for consultation for the next two weeks.

ACU posted a modest surplus of $200,000 in 2022, down from $56m in 2021.

Save Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the Australian Catholic University 

The Australian Catholic University has unveiled a 'change plan' which recommends disestablishment of its world-leading medieval and early modern studies research program. Medieval and early modern studies is an interdisciplinary area that encompasses historical, literary, theological, religious, philosophical, art and music studies and more. It is not simply an area of 'history' (as has been identified by the ACU cuts), but an area that traverses and engages with many academic areas of inquiry. It is an area at ACU that has been specifically identified as a key area of investment over the last five or so years. Our staff of 7 are high performing, world leading academics. We have positioned ourselves as the hub of MEMS activity in Australasia over the last few years and we are growing an HDR cohort nationally and internationally, while also developing partnerships and networks across the globe. Our focus on the global Middle Ages (especially the global south), projects on racism and conspiracy theories in the early modern world, histories of home and homelessness, histories of religious mobilities, and histories of legal medievalism and medievalism in LGBTQI cultures make us not only a uniquely variegated MEMS program, but also put us at the cutting edge of many areas of contemporary resonance. At a university that prides itself on its Catholic mission and focus, it is therefore surprising that an integral area of study that contextualises, explains and advances its Catholic history and inquiry in all its historical and contemporary forms would be chosen to be cut. 

ACU’s ‘Faith and Values’ statement asserts that the university draws ‘inspiration from the “heart of the Church” building on the ancient tradition which gave rise to the first universities in medieval Europe. Retaining a dedicated research program in the areas that are fundamental to this inspiration is of critical importance. 

Please sign below to protest this plan. 

Thank you, 

Prof Megan Cassidy-Welch, Director , Medieval and Early Modern Studies Research Program, ACU.’


Well, prof, you lost me when you wrote of “histories of legal medievalism and medievalism in LGBTQI cultures,” best you get closed down.







No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
Tuesday, 26 September 2023

Captcha Image